We flew out Thursday morning and arrived around 3am Friday morning, got a few hours of sleep and headed to the mountain to watch practice and qualifying. Now, I’ve been to many races in my life, but never a World Cup. These boys are fast!! I’m no slouch on a bike but boy do I have some work to do… The speed, commitment, and skills these guys have is really something else! Qualifying was fun to watch and after we headed down to the pit area to get some posters from various teams and riders. We went back to our hotel and relaxed for the evening knowing race day would be a long one
We woke up Saturday morning, had breakfast and got picked up by Will from Santa Cruz. We met the mechanics and chatted for a bit in the Santa Cruz pit before heading up the hill to watch the racing action. The Jr races were off first and the field was pretty stacked. I was really impressed by how quick these young racers we’re going! They carried some impressive speed through some very difficult sections and weren’t scared to throw in a little bit of style over the jumps in the finish area.
The women were up next and again I was impressed. I don’t get to see this caliber of female rider at our local races so to watch them charge through the course taking the same lines as the guys with just as much commitment was really awesome! Without surprise Rachel Atherton took the win for the women’s field.
Then came down the men, 80 in total and the times were extremely tight. But even more amazing was the speed these guys were going the entire time! Nothing seemed to slow them down even on this flatter track. It’s all business for these guys tho, most of the races were not doing whips or show boating of any sort… Straight air to the landing scrubbing as much speed as they could off of the take off and probably pedaling all the way through the air. We made our way down the track through the pro men’s field and got to the bottom finish line for the final 20 min. The three minute gaps for these last guys allowed you to watch a decent portion of there run love on the jumbotron before coming into view near the finish of the track for the last few jumps.
The crowd was electric! American flags everywhere, crazy patriotic faces, signs, horns, cowbells, chainsaws going off all around as the riders would come down the final portion of the track. Loris Vergier of the Lapierre Gravity Republic team had a bad qualy and was sitting in the hotseat when we first got to the bottom and even with all of the big name guys coming down no one seemed to be able to bump the young Frenchman out of the hotseat. Guys like Steve Smith, Gee Atherton, Josh Bryceland and many more could not dethrone Loris. Not until Greg Minaar came down with a stellar run taking over the top spot. Only a few riders were left to come down the mountain. Troy Brosnan, Aaron Gwin, and Loic Bruni to be exact. Unfortunately Troy would crash out and not be able to podium, and Loic would get a flat tire and ride it out to the bottom but not with the time he desired. The last man down the hill would be non other than the fastest American alive, racing on his home soil, in from of the best fans in the world, Aaron Gwin. His race run was blistering, no one else attacked the course like he did. Every section we could see up on the big screen he was going noticeably faster than everyone else. Fastest at both splits by a large margin… As he came into view at the bottom of the track everyone was going wild!!! Fans were chasing him down the track as he sprinted into the finish area taking the win by almost 4 seconds! It was truly an impressive run!
We watched the podium ceremonies which live in person were quite entertaining! We then headed back to the pits where we got to hang out with Greg and Josh, there mechanics Marshon and Doug, and countless others as they stopped in to congratulate the team on there efforts. Those of us that we’re of age started drinking in the pits which soon led us to dinner at a local steak house where we met with the guys from fox racing shox and Greg continued to order rounds of shots for everyone who could legally drink. Dinner was great and there were many funny stories told during dinner. We then headed to the Mexican restaurant and bar for some more drinks where I was fortunate enough to meet some very cool people. John Hall (Aaron Gwins mech.), Troy Brosnan, Loic Bruni, and Elliot Jackson just to name a few! Knowing that we had a fun day of riding ahead of us I headed back to my room around 1am to get some rest!
We woke up Sunday morning, had breakfast, packed our stuff, and headed to the mountain to go ride some bikes! We picked up our Trek session 88 rental bikes and headed up the mountain. We started off on there blue level jump trail, then decided that we should see of the World Cup track was open… We knew it wasn’t but there wasn’t any signs or tape saying that we could ride it so… Boys will be boys and off we went! That track was a blast to ride!! It was very one lined but it was loose and flowed very well! I was having an absolute blast on the track. We made three runs down it before the caught on to our shenanigans and taped off the entrance to the track. Which was no big deal because the amateur race was now over and the other downhill race track was now open to ride. By the end of the day we had made 9 runs down the hill and we returned our now beaten and battered rental bikes to the shop. All in all it was a great day of riding bikes in a new place.
This entire weekend was a huge eye opener for me. I had the time of my life and I cannot thank Unreal Cycles, Santa Cruz Bikes, and Will Ockelton enough for the great opportunity and wonderful experience!!